HomeEventsMidland Main Line electrification - A fairytale ending

Midland Main Line electrification – A fairytale ending

The Midland Main Line (MML) is described as being something of a ‘Cinderella’ railway. That’s a nice way of saying that it hasn’t seen much in the way of investment in recent years. The East Midlands region in particular has not benefitted from the cash injection seen on routes in other parts of the country.

In CP5, however, the region which gave birth to the railway is finally going to the ball – thanks to an unprecedented portfolio of enhancements. It may be surprising, but the electrification of the MML will cover a distance three quarters the size of the Great Western electrification programme. On top of this technical challenge, the organisations carrying out the work will have to adapt to several major changes being made by Network Rail as to how major projects are planned and delivered.

Unprecedented programme

Central to the investment in the Midlands over the next five years is the MML electrification programme. The project involves extending the electrified route north of Bedford to the East Midlands and South Yorkshire. This will include 639 single-track kilometres of new OLE.

The electrification scheme is one large piece of a bigger puzzle which includes capacity improvement works, station remodelling and resignalling schemes. Altogether, £1.3 billion is being spent upgrading the route and electrifying the line to Derby by 2019 and Sheffield by 2020.

The electrification programme kicks off this year between Bedford and Corby. Route clearance works are already 20 per cent complete.

Another significant bottleneck will be removed through remodelling works at Derby station which will be completed in 2018. The multifaceted portfolio of work around Derby will also include resignalling the route between Derby and Stoke.

Network Rail is investing so much in the East Midlands in order to meet a predicted growth in demand for rail in the region which is expected to rise by 16 per cent by 2019. In January, Network Rail predicted that passenger numbers could increase by as much as 114 per cent by 2043. Add to that an increased demand for freight capacity.

Long-term planning is needed, and Network Rail has now begun looking beyond 2020 and has published a consultation document for the route which, among other things, includes plans to upgrade the MML to four tracks and separating it from the line to Nuneaton at Wigston Junction within the next 10 years.

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Safe Start 2015

The programme is being delivered by the Network Rail Infrastructure Projects East Midlands (IPEM) team, which comprises Network Rail, AMCO, Arup, Atkins, Carillion, Powerlines, Galliford Try and Murphy.

For the past 18 months, the project team has been working together planning, designing and delivering enabling works and, on 29 January, employees from each of the companies came together in the East Midlands for the first time to discuss best practice as the programme moves towards delivery.

Primarily, the focus was on safety and the event provided a platform for the IPEM Safety Leadership Team (SLT), which is made up of the senior leaders from each of the IPEM companies, to set out its safety pledge and ensure that all the companies involved are working to the same ‘Everyone home safe everyday’ philosophy that Network Rail has adopted.

Entitled Safe Start 2015, the event followed a supplier engagement event hosted by Carillion at the start of 2014 for UK companies supporting Network Rail’s Multi Asset Framework Agreement (MAFA) projects.

Held at the exhibition centre behind Donington Park’s famous Dunlop Straight, the event, which was organised by Carillion’s James Steele and his team, offered PPE providers, plant operators and all other corners of the infrastructure supply chain the opportunity to showcase their products and safety innovations.

A series of seminars delivered by SLT members demonstrated the safe work principles that underline each element of delivery from design to the planning of work and welfare on site. On the day, there were 750 attendees, 560 delegates and 160 suppliers.

Richard Walker, Network Rail route delivery director, East Midlands, said that a new way of working had to be adopted in order to deliver the project and to deliver it safely. Speaking after the event, he said: “We’re not working in an alliance, we’re not working in a contractual collaboration, what we’re trying to do is have people working together for the right reasons.”


Safe Work Leaders

Using current figures, IPEM predicts that, unless it does something different, it will suffer 20 major injuries, 200 lost-time injuries and 20,000 close calls during the 20 million man hours required to complete the project. Safe Start is one way in which IPEM aims to improve safety performance by changing mindsets and adopting safety initiatives such as the Plan & Deliver Safe Work (PDSW) programme.

IPEM will be the first project team to employ PDSW and will have the first worksites to employ Safe Work Leaders (SWL). Walker said he felt the partnership model that is being adopted for the Midland main line electrification project would help the roll out of such a significant reform in Network Rail’s planning and safety protocols. He said: “The way that we’re setting up our integrated programme is going to help Safe Work Leader deliver… It complements exactly what we’re doing.”

The SWL will be involved in the planning and will be accountable for the safe delivery of work on-site. Although the COSS role will remain, they will report to the site SWL, who will have to be employed by either Network Rail or a principal contractor.

Overall, Walker said that he was satisfied that safe delivery of the programme wasn’t a concern for the East Midlands. “I know we’ll have a decent culture,” said Richard, adding: “It’s not something we’re not looking at, it’s something that’s at the forefront of our minds.”

Richard said that just a few weeks on, he was seeing the benefits from the event. He believed that it had already begun to improve communication across the supply chain and the next engagement event is already in the planning.

Lead image: Peter-R-Foster-IDMA/ Shutterstock.com


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